The U.S. Department of State sponsors the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship program, which brings young and midcareer professionals from designated countries to the United States for a year of nondegree, graduate-level study, leadership development, and professional collaboration with U.S. counterparts. Population Reference Bureau (PRB) hosted several Humphrey Fellows this year, and they were kind enough to share with us their work and how they found their time with us.


Hoda El Mahdy has served as acting education manager at the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development in Cairo, Egypt. Her areas of interest are nonprofit management, vocational education, and education to employment. While at PRB, Ms. El Mahdy conducted research on the nonprofit sector in Egypt. She is affiliated with Pennsylvania State University’s College of Education.

What did you work on during your time at PRB?

I have been working on independent research looking at the policy framework governing nonprofit organizations and civil society in Egypt. I prepared a policy brief in the form of a presentation based on my research findings, using the guidelines from the PACE Policy Communication Toolkit, which I trained on as part of my project. I also used this time to learn about PRB’s project management cycle, particularly the stages of project management from capture to closure, sponsor relations, and the administration of global projects. In addition, PRB facilitated several opportunities for me to network with partner organizations like the World Bank and the Population Council, and helped me find events in town relevant to my area of work and academic interests.

How does this work relate to your fellowship training? 

My work at PRB helped complement and fill some of the knowledge gaps in my fellowship training. Since my field of work is nonprofit management, I focused my fellowship training on courses relating to project management, monitoring and evaluation, and needs assessments, in addition to leadership and international education policy models. My experience at PRB provided me with training on the right communication methods to approach policymakers in my country, who constitute an important partner and stakeholder to the nonprofit sector. It also gave me much needed time to research a topic very specific to my country―the new Egyptian nongovernmental organization (NGO) law issued in 2017 to govern nonprofits. At PRB, I was able to understand the full implications of the new law compared to the previous framework and develop a presentation directed toward NGO middle management professionals in Egypt to assist them when communicating with policymakers.

What did you learn that you can apply to your future work?

Training on the PACE Policy Communication Toolkit was very valuable, and my goal is to share its approach with peers back home. The training most helped me see the act of approaching a policymaker in a different light. I learned that the message must be communicated in a way that is appealing, nonthreatening, and has a clear ask that the policymaker can get on board with. There are many practical tips that I’m taking away from the training and that will help me with any presentation skills in general, too, not only ones directed for a policy-oriented audience.


Sahr Joseph Kaifineh is the senior planning and budget officer in the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security in Sierra Leone’s civil service, where he supports the design, preparation, and implementation of strategic plans and ensures that the Ministry’s periodic activity plans are budget sensitive and SMART. Mr. Kaifineh also acts as assistant registrar for the Murialdo Institute of Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (Sierra Leone), where he facilitates the institute’s integration with the community and national economic development agendas and represents it at major academic forums, among other tasks. His area of focus during his Humphrey year is policy development, the economics of poverty alleviation and natural resource management, and financial instruments of economic development. When he returns to Sierra Leone, Mr. Kaifineh intends to share his experiences and provide support and guidance to the sustainable development goals of his country through his position. He is affiliated with Michigan State University’s Center for Advanced Study of International Development.

What did you work on during your time at PRB?

My affiliation with PRB focused on learning the principles and practice of policy communication through the PACE Policy Communication Toolkit, which is a valuable resource that is helping me realize my fellowship goal. I also called on the expertise of PRB staff to develop a policy presentation, “Basic Education for Sustainable Development in Sierra Leone.” Such basic education is a felt need and a potential channel for the prosperity of my country. Its importance was justified by the commitment of the newly elected president of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, who made education a priority in the government’s development program for the next five years and announced the beginning of free primary and secondary education for all children attending government and government-assisted schools.

How does this work relate to your fellowship training? 

My fellowship training focused on economic development, public policy, and project management, which has a clear relationship with my work at PRB. During my fellowship year, I learned a lot about international best practices in sustainable development regarding poverty, inequality, and community sustainability. After acquiring the theoretical and practical perspectives on these concepts of economic development, the Policy Communication Toolkit enhanced my capacity to make easy-to-understand policy recommendations to my government and help close the gaps that have existed between the facts and the policies. Research has great value for policy, but my research on the educational dynamics in Sierra Leone needs to be effectively communicated to specific policy audiences in the country to have an impact. Through the Toolkit, I have acquired the skills to bridge this gap so that policymaking and decisionmaking in Sierra Leone, especially concerning education, will rely on the evidence.

What did you learn that you can apply to your future work?

In addition to the knowledge and skills I have acquired from the training at PRB, I have also gained ideas about best practices in an organizational setting. I am particularly inspired by the level of confidence and trust among staff, their independence, diligence, and professionalism, and their open-door policy. I admire these values and wish to apply them in my future work.